mon 04/03/2024

Total War: Rome II | reviews, news & interviews

Total War: Rome II

Total War: Rome II

The epic realtime strategy series has outreached itself

'Total War: Rome II': epic historic battles meet the world's most complex 'Risk'-style game

The greatest strategy videogames deliver a balance of time to think and pressure to act. The greatest strategy videogames deliver the thrill of battle mixed with clear strategic choice. Several entries in the Total War series count as great strategy games. But not this one. The eighth in the series fails on two distinct fronts, both in terms of execution – vital to keep its hardcore of fans engaged – and in terms of engaging content for new players.

Like most of the rest of the series, Total War: Rome II has two separate but linked main modes. A gigantic Risk-style top-down map of most of Europe, bits of Africa and Asia plays out the conquest, entrenchment and politics of Roman-era empire-building. Spies assassinate enemy generals, ships ply trade routes and cities and provinces are taxed, suffer rebellions and amass armies. Your faction sides against over a dozen rivals, all able to battle, ally and/or trade. Each faction takes turns to go – like a classic boardgame.

Total War Rome II realtime strategy gaming goes epicWhen two armies clash, it's not just a case of knocking the enemy's piece over. Instead you go into a realtime battle mode – 3D, with epic visuals, realistic terrain and weather (which affects tactics) and amazing physics simulation that accurately maps what cavalry charges do to infantry lines, or what dug-in, spear-armed infantry do to cavalry for that matter.

For new players, the problem Rome II presents is, so deep into the series's life, there's little left in terms of an attempt to ease players in. A basic tutorial shows you the ropes – then suddenly you're left alone. Computer-controlled "advisors" might deign to chivvy you to get on with invading a nearby city, but don't seem inclined to tell you if your population is over-taxed, if your army is woefully underprepared or even if where you're placing your troops for battle is idiotic.

You're also not told the open secrets most fervent players know – that one of the common tricks digital generals use is to get the enemy army chasing one set of fast-moving units while the rest of your army gradually bite chunks out of the rear of the pursuing enemies. I doubt that was in Hannibal's real-life playbook.

Total War Rome II realtime strategy gaming goes epicThe game ends up far, far too complex and with too steep a learning curve for new players. But old hands will struggle (at least for now) too. There are way too many glitches and bugs in the game at the moment (something its makers at least acknowledge), and waiting for rival computer-controlled factions to take their turn takes ages. Plus there are too many off-the-field distractions that reduce the number of epic battles you actually get to fight.

Baffling for newcomers, Rome II makes the mistake of becoming a grind for Total War fans too. Some of that can be fixed with patches, but for now, the epic scope of the series is starting to look like an over-extended army bordering on chaos.

Amazing physics simulation accurately maps what cavalry charges do to infantry lines, or what dug-in, spear-armed infantry do to cavalry, for that matter


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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